Did Live Streaming Affect the US Presidential Election?

by Steven Mortimer

In 2016, Social Bakers reported that video posts on Facebook have a massive 135% greater organic reach than photo posts. This is a fascinating turnaround for videos on Facebook, since it was not long ago that photos were deemed the best way for brands to reach their audience on the social media site. This past year we have witnessed the slow decline of traditional, picture-based infographic and the rise of short video clips, as exemplified by popular Facebook profiles such as “TheLadBible” or “Tasty”. But one of the newest forms of user generated content was live streaming.

Indeed, livestreaming became an increasingly paramount product for brands and companies to take advantage of last year, with whole concerts, conferences and discussions being held on Facebook, Periscope and Twitter. But perhaps the most startling use of livestreaming last year was during the presidential election, wherein both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took advantage of livestreams to encourage votes. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s inauguration was the single most livestreamed event ever, with 4.6 million unique viewers.

This was in massive contrast to the use of livestreaming during previous president Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and subsequent inauguration, where livestreaming was scarcely used by anyone his internal campaign team and the event was publicised more on traditional media (television, primarily)

So, how did livestreaming effect the 2017 presidential campaign? And why exactly was it a factor in each candidate’s campaigns?

First, it is important to note that the concept of livestreaming is a simple one to grasp. Users hit start on their device and live video begins to broadcast, with a chat feature usually accompanying it. From there, the streamer can read any messages viewers will have, albeit with a slight and expected sending delay usually amounting to 20-30 seconds. Furthermore, Facebook (as well as other apps) sends a direct notification to you whenever one of the profile’s you’ve liked or one of your friends goes live. Since acquiring votes requires the candidate to reach out to wide demographics of all ages, these two reasons make livestreaming a fantastic way to call people to action – a simple concept interlinked with a notification system is one of the most beneficial factors of livestreaming.

During their respective campaigns, Trump and Clinton would often take part in Q&A (questionimages and answer) streams. This provides a format for voters to directly ask questions about the candidate’s policies and thoughts, and is arguably the most effective way of contacting the politicians with questions other than physically asking them over the phone or face to face. This increases the credibility of each candidate, with both Trump and Clinton benefiting from a CSR (corporate social responsibility) standpoint, while keeping the viewers involved and adding a sense of urgency towards the content.

Swing states, or the parts of America that could be realistically won by either the Democratic or Republican candidate, are extremely important during the presidential election. Since these states are so impartial, they rely on the media to deliver news, information and commentary on each candidate’s policies. However, to run an advertisement on television in selected states would be expensive for the campaign team, so providing free livestreams on already existing apps is both cheaper and more practical, since 62% of US adults receive their news from social media anyway.

Live streaming is set to become the newest mainstay in social media over the course of the year, with its inclusion in mainstream media and current events becoming more evident. If the, arguably, biggest political event in modern history, the election and campaign of Donald Trump, can benefit so heavily from live streaming, then undoubtedly the format will go from strength-to-strength in the near future.

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